History of coffee

Coffee with its wonderful aroma, delicate taste and strong tonic features has kept its place during the ages as one of the most popular and most-consumed beverages worldwide, second only to water, and with tea as a sole competitor.

The story of the discovery of the coffee drink is lost far back in ages and today is based on many historical myths and legends.

Legends of the Coffee

One legend tells of an Ethiopian shepherd named Khalid (or Kaldi) who lived in IX century. He was a serious and responsible person. One day his goats did not come back to the cattle pen and Kaldi went looking for them. When he found them, he was surprised by their strange behavior - they were bouncing around as if with joy, next to a bush with red berries. Kaldi noticed that his goats had eaten of the berries and decided to try them, too. Soon, the goatherd himself started dancing around the tree. At this point Aucuba - a monk from a neighboring town, passed near Kaldi and his goats. He was very tired from the long way he had walked without stopping to sleep nor eat. Aucuba noticed Kaldi and his goats behave strangely and because he was hungry, he decided to try the red berries too. Suddenly he felt refreshed and rested. He took some berries with him and when he got home he mixed them with other food and prepared a decoction of the coffee berries, which lifted fatigue and exhaustion during the long religious ceremonies. The story of the incredible effect of the drink quickly spread across to other cities and monasteries. Aucuba became very rich, and nobody knows what happened to Kaldi.

 

According to another legend, the first men who discovered the exhilarating effect of coffee were monks from Christian monasteries in Ethiopia. They prepared a decoction of coffee berries allaying the feeling of fatigue during the long religious ceremonies. They called the drink "Cava" - in honor of Persian Bishop Cavusa Caya, who is believed to have ascended to heaven on a winged chariot. Whether or not so, and which of these stories is more plausible, nobody can say.

Coffee Homeland

Etiopia is considered as the homeland of coffee; there even today coffee can still be observed as a wild plant. First of the Arabs, who drank coffee, were not the Yemenis, but the residents of the lost city of Julfar within the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah. During the excavations of this legendary city archaeologists discovered probably the oldest known grains in the Arabian Peninsula relating to the early 12th century A.D. Julfarisians prepared their drink by boiling beans and dried leaves.

This method of preparation is used even today at some places on the Arabian Peninsula. Bedouin light coffee Dalla (named after the copper vessel used for its preparation) is very strong and is offered in special tiny cups in 2-3 sips. Even to this day Bedouins welcome distinguished and dear guests treating them to dalla and dates. However, the coffee owes its popularity to Yemen, and not to its home country. Yemeni slaves brought to Arab countries took their strange tribal food with them, and thus it became known to the Arabs. It was there that Arab traders first began the spread of coffee.

Origin of the Name Coffee

Experts continue to argue about the origin of the name Coffee. Some believe that Coffee is coined from the Arabic "kaye" meaning strength, power. Others associate it with the name Qahwa, also coming from Arabic and meaning "wine". The third version is based on the name of the province Kaffe in southern Ethiopia, where even today wild coffee is still observed in the forests.

 

The Coffee Road

The cultivation of coffee began in XV century. For centuries, Arabian province of Yemen was the only source of coffee in the world. Demand was so great that the departure of grain from the Yemeni port of Mocha was heavily guarded. No fruitful tree was allowed to leave the country.

Despite the restrictions, Muslim pilgrims going to Mecca illegally imported coffee trees in their lands, and soon the coffee plants were rooted in India.

Coffee also extended to Europe through Venice, where fleets traded perfumes, teas, dyes and fabrics with Arabic merchants in the Spice Road. Many European traders got accustomed to drinking coffee overseas and brought it with them to their native lands. The drink gained popularity when street vendors started to sell it. Read more about the coffee road.

Today, coffee is an integral part of our daily life.